The football tournament at the 2018 Asian Games has finally reached its climax, with the final and third-place match set to take place on Saturday, September 1st.
Vietnam is set to take on the United Arab Emirates in their hunt for a bronze medal. The South East Asian outfit are in unchartered territory after progressing beyond the round of 16 for the first time this year. This current crop of budding Vietnamese stars continue to blaze a trail and have been dubbed in some quarters the country’s “golden generation” after already being crowned runners-up at the AFC U23 Championships back in January.
To celebrate their achievements, the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has already granted the team with a special flight to return from Jakarta. It is further expected that the team will be greeted by a massive celebratory crowd upon their touchdown in Hanoi, regardless of whether or not they win they defeat the Emiratis in the bronze-medal clash. However, the hunger and desire shown by this youthful side thus far suggest that the budding Golden Dragons will do everything they can to avoid returning home empty-handed.
Elsewhere, Japan and South Korea are set to battle it out for the coveted Gold Medal, with both sides having a key motive for winning the competition.
Defending champions Korea have bought a strong squad to Indonesia, featuring the likes of Tottenham star Heung-Min Son. The 26-year-old is one of three over-age or “wild card” players bought by the Taegeuk Warriors, a clear signal of their intention to win the competition. For Son, a victory over Japan would mean an exemption from the mandatory military service expected of all able-bodied males in his homeland, allowing him to continue his career in North London.
Meanwhile, Japan sees this tournament as preparation for the 2020 Olympics which they are preparing to host in Tokyo. As such, the country has sent an incredibly youthful side to the competition, consisting largely of players born during or after 1997, meaning that they will all be eligible for the upcoming tournament on home soil. Their run has already inspired massive confidence in the side going into that competition, but bringing home a Gold Medal would truly signify a landmark achievement in the nation’s footballing history.
For both sides, Saturday’s final will be a game of high stakes and epic proportions.